TAMPA, Fla. - Effective immediately, Florida's governor is suspending consumption of alcohol at bars statewide.
Halsey Beshears, secretary of the state's Department of Business & Professional Regulation, made the surprise announcement on Twitter this morning with a mere 19-word tweet.
The news came minutes after Florida reported nearly 9,000 new coronavirus cases, a new record for daily increases. Officials have said the number of cases is surging among young adults, which could endanger those who are most vulnerable to the virus.
“We’re seeing really, really big positive test results from our younger, less risky demographic in terms of the effects of this, but a lot of asymptomatic carriers and asymptomatic transmitters, and I think that’s what the concern is, for our vulnerable population, that it seeps into some of those folks who are more vulnerable to the virus,” Gov. Ron DeSantis said at a Friday afternoon press conference.
Source: Fla. Dept. of Health
This week, emergency room doctors and hospital executives said they have enough hospital beds for the moment, but they expressed concern that a large increase in new patients appears to be beginning.
In commission meetings across Florida, local leaders have said that most businesses are following the capacity guidelines set by Phase 2 of the governor's three-phase plan to roepen the state, but some haven't.
Earlier this week, he warned bars they would lose their liquor license if they didn't maintain 50% capacity. In Orlando, Knight's Pub had their license suspended after 13 employees and 28 customers tested positive for COVID-19. The bar is located near the University of Central Florida.
On Thursday, DeSantis said the state would not "roll back" any reopening guidance amid the uptick in cases and he declined to endorse a statewide mask-wearing mandate. "We are where we are," he told FOX 13's Evan Axelbank.
Hours later, Beshears tweeted about the bar order, which reads, in part: "All vendors licensed to sell alcoholic beverages for consumption on the premises who derive more than 50% of gross revenue from such sales ... shall suspend such sales of alcoholic beverages for consumption on premises."
However, those businesses can sell alcohol in "sealed containers" for customers to consume off-site. Businesses licensed as "public food service establishments" or "restaurants" in Florida can allow on-site consumption of alcohol.
The governor did not initially address the order at his afternoon press conference, but he did mention "widespread noncompliance" with social distancing guidelines among young adults that "led to issues." He urged those in the younger demographic to wear masks, wash hands, and avoid crowded indoor spaces.
“Air conditioning is not going to be your friend when it comes to the virus,” DeSantis said. “Outdoors is your friend, the sunshine is your friend, the heat and humidity is your friend.”
When asked about a statewide mask mandate, the governor again said it was not necessary in the entire state and feared that enforcement would "backfire."
“I think the businesses have done a good job, when people come in, creating a safe environment,” he added. “We’re gonna continue to put out the messaging, we’re gonna continue to put out the guidance, and we’re gonna trust people to make good decisions.”
Meanwhile, the governor of Texas also ordered all bars to close as the state faces a similar rise in coronavirus cases.